One Stolen Night of Frist

By | February 9, 2004

Yes, you’ve got me. It only took until issue No. 3 of Insurance Journal Midwest to put a big ol’ non-Midwesterner on the cover. Hopefully you’ll find it in your heart to forgive me for highlighting Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist’s interview with IJ Southeast Managing Editor Dave Thomas on the medical liability reform debate in Washington, D.C.

What has happened with medical liability in this country is truly amazing. Its high losses and terrible 150 percent-ballpark combined ratios have made it practically uninsurable, which is why most of the coverage is written by doctors’ mutuals and, increasingly, hospital-formed captives and self-insurance mechanisms.

Frist, a Republican from Tennessee, has attempted to bring his distinguished background as a heart and lung surgeon to bear on the medical liability debate, but a bill to limit pain-and-suffering damages to $250,
000 per incident was stalled in the Senate last year. With a crowded legislative calendar and a certain election around the corner, it seems unlikely that med-mal reform has a chance in Congress this year. And so the crisis continues unabated while industry lobbyists push to limit losses at the state level, where they’ve traditionally had more success.

Elsewhere in this issue you’ll find our annual in-depth update on the commercial and personal auto markets, which analysts say will be immune to the rate softening we’ve seen in other property/casualty lines of business. Regular columnists Catherine Oak and Bill Schoeffler say they’ve got the secret to improving employee productivity—doughnuts! Just kidding, of course, but the real answer will cost you your first-born (or you can just to turn to page I in the national section).

One last story I think is of particular interest is North Dakota Commissioner Jim Poolman’s interview with National Editor Andrea Ortega-Wells. Poolman, elected vice president of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners at the group’s winter meetings last December in San Diego, argues forcefully that the states need to modernize now to stave off federal legislation and keep the insurance premium tax-dollar spigot flowing.

Poolman’s neighbors in South Dakota seem intent on heading in that direction; the Senate there voted 33-2 to move the state’s to a file-and-use rating system while largely deregulating commercial lines insurance. The race between state efforts to deregulate and Congressional efforts to intervene will be a fascinating one to watch.

Finally, I’d like to thank the readers who took the time to call or write and share their thoughts on the premiere issue of IJ Midwest. Please keep the feedback coming. I know we can do a better job, and you can help us do it. Call my Chicago office anytime at (773) 381-1572.

Thanks for reading!

Kevin B. O’Reilly
Managing Editor
koreilly@insurancejournal.com

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